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Turkish Assembly Approves Bill to Boost Presidential Powers

  • Associated Press

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, center, and lawmakers cast their votes during Turkey's parliamentary debate proposing constitutional amendments that would hand President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's largely ceremonial presidency sweeping executive powers, in Ankara, Turkey, Jan. 21, 2017.

Turkey's parliament has approved a contentious constitutional reform package, paving the way for a referendum on a presidential system that would greatly expand the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's office.

In an all-night session that ended early Saturday, lawmakers voted in favor of a set of amendments presented by the ruling party, founded by Erdogan. The reform bill cleared the minimum threshold necessary to put the measures to a national referendum for final approval.

The vote took place with 488 lawmakers out of the 550-seat assembly in attendance. A total of 339 parliamentarians voted yes, 142 no, five cast empty ballots and two were ruled invalid.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim celebrated the result, saying, "We are now entrusting this to the people, its actual owners. Now it's the people's word. It is the people's decision."

A public vote on the issue is expected as early as March 26, and no later than mid-April, according to officials of the ruling Justice and Development Party.

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